Free agent offensive guard Richie Incognito, who has not set foot in an NFL facility since he was suspended by the Dolphins on November 3, was at One Buccaneer Place today for a workout. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported that should the workout go well, the Bucs are expected to sign the troubled lineman. The Buccaneers, who have a major need at guard, appear to be becoming somewhat desperate to shore up the protection for quarterback Josh McCown. But, what does it say about a team that traded away “troublemaker” Mike Williams, that they would bring in someone with the high profile issues, especially in the locker room, that Incognito has had.
So what are the benefits of signing Incognito? For starters, he is an immediate upgrade over every guard on their roster. He was a pro bowler two seasons ago. He does bring an attitude on the field that this offensive line is sorely lacking. There seems to be no fire from the linemen, and Incognito certainly provides that sort of confidence. In 2012, he was given the PFWA’s “Good Guy Award”, given to the player who best helps the media do their job. For Incognito, Tampa Bay may be a perfect situation for him. There are established veteran leaders in this locker room. Guys like Gerald McCoy, Dashon Goldson, and Vincent Jackson are the types of leaders the Miami Dolphins were lacking last year when the bullying of teammate Jonathan Martin occurred. And although there are different stories as to what was really going on, there is definitive evidence that Incognito said quite a few things he shouldn’t have. But Lovie Smith is the type of coach that could straighten him out in a hurry. To this point, Incognito’s head coaches have been: Scott Linehan, Jim Haslett, Steve Spagnuolo, Perry Fewell, Tony Sparano, Todd Bowles, and Joe Philbin. Not exactly the model of top-tier, well respected coaches. We’ve seen troubled players in the past find themselves with no nonsense, well respected coaches and they suddenly become well behaved people and good teammates, such as Randy Moss. Then, of course, there are the players who find themselves in trouble away from the field and find redemption. Michael Vick, Ray Lewis, possibly Ray Rice. Sometimes it takes the right leadership from the staff as well as peers.
By why should the Bucs pass on him? Well, for starters, the newly implemented “high character players” Lovie Smith and Jason Licht want. Incognito certainly does not fall into that category. As I mentioned earlier, they already shipped wide receiver Mike Williams out of town for character issues. And these character issues are not strictly linked to Miami or the bullying scandal. Richie has found trouble everywhere he’s been, all the way back to high school. This was far from an isolated incident, so his character may be too far gone to be saved. Secondly, he has never played for a winning team, nor participated in the playoffs. Now, this obviously isn’t directly his fault, but he has never been part of a winning atmosphere. In 2009, the sporting News conducted a player survey where they named Incognito the NFL’s “Dirtiest Player”, accusing him of gouging players’ eyes, punching opponents, or making illegal blocks/tackles.
All in all, the Bucs desperately need help on the offensive line. Richie Incognito desperately needs a job, and the chance to redeem himself. If the Bucs sign him, it will not be an overwhelmingly popular decision. The majority of the fans on social media seem pretty evenly divided either for or against. The NFL has recently issued a statement that Incognito is immediately available to play and will serve no further suspension, making him available week one. The Buccaneers can sign him for the veteran minimum, making this a very low risk, extremely high reward situation. There were other teams reportedly interested, so the Buccaneers may go ahead and lock him up for the year soon, fully guaranteeing his salary. However, if they are able to hold off until after week one, his salary is then paid on a week-to-week basis, with no guaranteed money. Whatever Lovie and Licht decide, we are sure to find out soon.